Turtle Tunes and the Giant Pacific Leatherback

There is a lot we do know about the hundreds of species of turtles living on our planet. Except that is….how they sound or vocalize.  

Papers published in the 1950′s claimed that turtles were deaf and did not vocalize.  So until recently, and because of this false assumption, no one studied turtle vocalizations. From mongabay.com….

Two new studies published recently in Chelonian Conservation and Biology and Herpetologica find that two turtle species vocalize when they reproduce and during some social interactions, and that their vocalizations are many and varied.   

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles living today. Photo by Tiffany Roufs.  Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0725-morgan-turtletalk.html#IR3v7DoAVuTo2xUF.99

California’s official marine reptile is the giant Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle. Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles living today. Photo by Tiffany Roufs via mongabay.com

The studies respectively looked at two very different species: giant Amazon river turtles (Podocnemis expansa) and leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). They found that the river turtles vocalized in all sorts of situations, from interactions between adults to hatchling communication. Leatherbacks, less social turtles, were also found to vocalize as when hatching and as they dispersed from their nests into the sea. Read more 

Interesting…and a reminder that just because we humans can’t hear certain creatures making sounds, it does not mean they are not making them.

it took decades to dispel the belief that turtles are deaf and did not vocalize…and most scientists tuned out ever studying their vocalizations all because of published literature dating back from the 1950′s.

Related Lolako.com posts — especially on the giant Pacific Leatherback turtle (California’s official marine reptile) :

Did you know…Elephants also vocalize in super low frequencies that humans can’t hear.  Low frequency sounds travel farther, making them better for long distance communication (see more about forest elephant vocalization here – The Cornell Lab Elephant Listening Project).

Biggest and Smallest Shark

I’ve posted several articles about sharks on my blog — originally because of my irrational fear of sharks.  When I think of sharks, I usually think of BIG sharks…like the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

Q A book about Sharks by Ann McGovernMy older grandson read the Scholastic book Questions and Answers about SHARKS by Ann McGovern, and we learned more!  Note: The book is great for readers in Grade 3 to Grade 5.

So…we knew that there were over 370 different types of sharks and about the whale shark — which at 60 feet long is the biggest shark, and the biggest fish in the world.

We didn’t know about the a tiny shark that fits in the palm of your hand.  Except:

The Japanese named it tsuranagakobitozame.  The word means “the dwarf shark with a long face.”

At about 5 inches long, the tsuranagakobitozame is one tiny shark (with a very long name)!

To learn more about whale sharks (which are listed as Vulnerable” on the IUCN Redlist. because of pressures from unregulated fisheries in China, India and the Philippines), please visit the Georgia Aquarium’s FAQ page, here.  The Georgia Aquarium and the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Japan, are places to see whale sharks on exhibit.

Also visit the The Florida Museum of Natural History’s Ichthyology Department for a great FAQ page on shark basics, here…and if you are curious to know if sharks sleep, if sharks have bones, or how long sharks live.

Did you know….fossil records show that the ancestors of modern sharks swam in our oceans over 400 million years ago?  That makes them older than dinosaurs!  Turns out that sharks have changed very little over time.

Click here to view Lolako.com’s shark related posts

Why the China communist party ban on extravagant banquets may save some sharks from extinction

Each year, millions of sharks are killed just for their fins, a practice called shark finning.  The fins — the most profitable part of the shark — are removed and the shark is returned to the sea alive, and eventually sinks to the bottom of the ocean and suffocates.

Outside of Asia, the state of California and New York are among the largest market for shark fins.  A new law banning the sale of dried shark fins took effect in California in August of this year.  In New York, a new law banning the possession, distribution and sale of shark fins will also be in place next summer.

Shark fins NOAA photo

Photo of NOAA agent counting confiscated shark fins via Wikipedia commons – http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag230.htm

Although U.S. bans will impact shark fin demands, the bans should also focus internationally, and on the worlds largest consumers of shark fin products, namely China, Japan and Thailand.

Last year, Chinese communist party officials banned extravagant items like expensive shark fin soups from official banquets.  This military action made a big difference in shark fin consumption in China.

Excerpt from an article posted on The Independent earlier this month:

A crackdown on extravagance and corruption within China’s ruling Communist Party is causing headaches for officials used to splashing the cash on banquets, but it’s proving a lifesaver for sharks.

Consumption of shark fin, the key ingredient in the pricey and extravagant banquet staple shark-fin soup, has dropped by 70 per cent since the end of last year, according to Ministry of Commerce data.

The party leadership launched a campaign in December, vowing to target extravagance and waste, and demanding austerity from cadres and military officials as a means of curbing graft (click here to read the article)

This move by Chinese military officials is similar to a Wal-Mart effect.  As the world’s largest retailer, manufacturing decisions by Wal-Mart — such as,making its vendors minimize plastic packaging — affects the environment simply because of Wal-Mart’s size.

So let’s hope this extravagant banquet ban in China will continue to lessen the demand on shark fins.  And that continued education from celebrity ambassadors (like the Yao Ming / Richard Branson pleas for Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins) puts a stop to this cruel practice and  give shark populations a chance to recover –especially in light of the improving Chinese wealth, making this once expensive restaurant item more affordable  for many more diners (scary thought!).

Richard Branson and Yao Ming Shark ban

Retired basketball star Yao Ming teamed up with British magnate Sir Richard Branson (founder and of Virgin Atlantic) to launch a campaign urging Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins soups.

Right now, 50 of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

I do wonder if the celebrity ambassador actions influenced military officials, and what impact it made, at least prior to these extravagant banquet bans.

I am less fearful of sharks now after learning about sharks on my post about the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez,

Sandbar Shark (Photo via NMFS - NOAA)

Sandbar Shark (Photo via NMFS – NOAA)

Related Lolako.com posts:

U.S. coast comparison of shark-attacks vs number of lightning fatalities

The man-eater label — shark attack or a shark-encounter

Links:

San Francisco based Wild Aid – Celebrity Ambassadors

Below video on shark finning

A raft of sea otters

Sea Otter Group Moss Landing

Raft of sea otters at Moss Landing Harbor area, photo by Jun-Yong Brown

“Is this natural?” asked the tourist from Israel as he stood next to me and my grandsons, amazed at what he was seeing.

“I mean, are they wild–is this their natural habitat or some preserve?” he added.  I replied “Yes, they are wild, and this is where they live.”

Raft of sea  otters rd

Photo by Jun-Yong Brown

We were at the Moss Landing State Beach earlier in the day, and my grandsons were excited to see  two sea otters swim past us, very close to the shoreline.

Then on the way home, we stopped to look across the inlet area facing Elkhorn Slough and were delighted to see a congregation of otters…much more excitement!

About 5 minutes after watching the raft of otters…they all swam away.  The conference over perhaps….or maybe it was time to forage for food.

Seeing the raft of otters was a nice way to end to our day at the beach, and I am again so happy to live in the Monterey Bay area, with so many opportunities to see wildlife.

White Face Sea Otter rd

Photo by Jun-Yong Brown

During the early part of the 1700′s, the California sea otter population was estimated to number 150,000.

From the mid 1700′s until the early part of 1900, these otters were almost hunted to extinction for their fur.

Today, California sea otters remain endangered with a population of  less than 3,000.

Boys at Moss Landing beach rd

Earlier in the day, my grandsons spotted 2 sea otters swimming close to the shore at Moss Landing State Beach

Sea-otter-in-kelp-anchor-eye-open-close-up

Photo by Jeff Roth

For more on sea otters, visit related Lolako.com Post: The sea otter’s one-eyed peak  

Adorable Sea Otter video – on the rocks by Monterey Bay wildlife photographer Efren B. Adalem

and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium website page Sea Otters as Risk

For more on Elkhorn Slough, visit  the Elkhorn Slough.org website here.  Excerpt:

Dunes and broad stretches of open sandy beach characterize the inner curve of Monterey Bay. The expansive beaches are interrupted only by the outlets of the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers, and the entrance to Elkhorn Slough and Moss Landing Harbor. The protected waters of the slough and its associated mudflats, wetlands, and nearby dunes provide a haven for a wide variety of birds, fish and unusual marine life. This remarkable variety of habitats provides visitors a rare opportunity to explore and discover nature’s secrets.

Adorable sea otter

If you need to change your mood today — or for fun and lightheartedness — take a look at this adorable sea otter video found on Monterey Bay wildlife photographer Efren B. Adalem’s website (Ooh! Look! Photography)…

Efren’s otter pictures are used in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s newly remodeled sea otter exhibit.

To view Efren’s stunning wildlife photograph gallery, visit Ooh! Look! Photography, here:

From Efren… “I am enjoying documenting the birds and wildlife in the Monterey Bay area of California. We live in one of only three fresh water wetlands left in California.

This special place needs to be protected for all the migratory birds that need wetlands to survive. Ooh! Look! Photography donates a portion of its profits after taxes to The Watsonville Wetlands Watch.

And yes, I adore sea otters!

Related Links:

Lolako.com’s post, The Sea Otter’s One-Eyed Peak…

More on sea otters here (link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Web Cam)

Philippine Eagle on the IUCN Redlist (critically endangered) and Species of the Day Feature

The Philippine Eagle is critically endangered, and has been on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red list since 1994.

Considered to the be largest bird in the world, the Philippine Eagle is endemic to the Philippines and is known to exist only in the islands of Mindanao, Leyte, Samar and eastern Luzon —  of the thousands of islands in the Philippine archipelago.

Endangered Philippine-Eagle-Close-up

Photograph by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com

The rapid decline of these magnificent birds — and official  national symbol of the Phillipines –  is mainly due to extensive deforestation and illegal logging in the Philippines.

Here is a link to quick facts on this magnificent bird, featured on the IUCN Red List Species of the Day feature: http://www.iucnredlist.org/sotdfiles/pithecophaga-jefferyi.pdf

For more on animals listed on the IUCN’s Red list of Threatened Species, visit the website at http://www.iucnredlist.org/

Related Lolako articles on the Philippine Eagle- Haring Ibon (King of Birds):

Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle

Post on the Philippine eagle video at ARKive.  ARKive’s mission is promoting the conservation of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery.

Geek news to shark tracking? There’s an app for that!

It seems that there really is an app for everything.

Over the weekend, I found out — from a nice young techno wiz of course — about Appy Geek, an app that lets techno geeks track all the latest news from all the top providers.

appy geekThat is of course, if you MUST keep up with all things Android, Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Samsung, HTC, smartphones, tablets, gadgets, Windows, start-ups, science, video games, internet and etc.

The unsettling part is when I googled Appy Geek and landed on a webpage, there was a notice that the app is compatible with my specific phone (and my specific wireless carrier).  Kinda creepy, though at this point, I don’t know if I really want to know how THEY know…

And for an app that relates locally to the Monterey Bay and conservation efforts, there is also the Shark App — a project by Marine biologist Barbara Block, winner of the 2012 Rolex Award for Enterprise, to monitor the activity of sharks off the coast of California and increase public awareness of the marine environment.

Excerpt from an article on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species…

Barbara Block has been studying the ocean for more than 30 years. Between 2000 and 2010 she was co-chief scientist for the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) programme and part of the Census of Marine Life. The information from these projects identified “hotspots” in the ocean off the coast of California where upwelling currents in the California Current during spring provide nutrients that cause plankton blooms which in turn attract fish and large marine predators such as sharks.

buoy_rolex_awards_bart_michiels

Photo by Bart Michiels via IUCN Red List website

Barbara will use her Rolex Award to fund the construction, testing and deployment of three listening buoys that will be located in marine sanctuaries at three California hotspots. Each time a tagged shark swims within half a kilometer of a buoy its presence will be detected and the information will be sent not only to Barbara’s laboratory but also to ordinary citizens across the world that have downloaded the new Shark Net app.

wave glider

The bright yellow, seven-foot long Wave Glider and fixed buoys will transmit data from tagged animals between Monterey Bay and Tomales Point. (Kip Evans) – photo via www.theepochtimes.com

To Barbara, engagement with these marine animals is key if people are to understand why they need to be protected.

To download the free Shark Net – Predators of the Blue Serengeti app, click here (compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.)

Related Links:

Lola Jane article The man-eater label: Shark attack or a shark encounter?

Article from The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/nov/18/barbara-block-sharks-app

Article from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ -  http://www.iucnredlist.org/news/tracking-sharks-with-the-rolex-awards-for-enterprise

The man-eater label: Shark attack or a shark encounter?

Sharks have an image problem. It’s the way they look really….and what about all the attacks we seem to hear about during summer?

Or just maybe…this image problem is rooted in what we call sharks, you know, man-eater, or our lack of understanding of the important role that sharks play in the ocean ecosystem.

How about our method of labeling and categorizing human contact with sharks?  The media reporting what really was a shark encounter as an attack?

Image of Shortfin-Mako-Shark from NOAA Gallery (Isurus oxyrinchus)

A report by Christopher Neff (University of Sydney) and Robert Hueter (Center for Shark Research, Sarasta, Florida) proposes moving away from “shark attack” labels and a new way to categorize human-shark interactions. The proposed categories are:

1.  Shark sightings: Sightings of sharks in the water in proximity to people. No physical human–shark contact takes place.

2. Shark encounters: Human-shark interactions in which physical contact occurs between a shark and a person, or an inanimate object holding that person, and no injury takes place. For example, shark bites on surfboards, kayaks, and boats would be classified under this label. In some cases, this might include close calls; a shark physically “bumping” a swimmer without biting would be labeled a shark encounter, not a shark attack…
3.  Shark bites: Incidents where sharks bite people resulting in minor to moderate injuries. Small or large sharks might be involved, but typically, a single, nonfatal bite occurs. If more than one bite occurs, injuries might be serious. Under this category, the term “shark attack” should never be used unless the motivation and intent of the animal—such as predation or defense—are clearly established by qualified experts. Since that is rarely the case, these incidents should be treated as cases of shark “bites” rather than shark “attacks.”
4. Fatal shark bites: Human–shark conflicts in which serious injuries take place as a result of one or more bites on a person, causing a significant loss of blood and/or body tissue and a fatal outcome.  Read more here…

Until recently,  I would not have put much thought on shark encounter nomenclature.  But many shark species are in trouble and shark populations devastated due to modern fishing methods and an elevated demand for shark meat, fins and cartilage.

I am less fearful of sharks now, compared to 1 year ago.  During my post on the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, I learned the important role that sharks play in our ocean ecosystem.

Right now, 50 of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.  Yet only the white, whale and basking sharks are protected.

Mano, Galapagos Shark image from NOAA website (Carcharhinus galapagensis)

A better understanding and image boost for sharks — starting with proper labeling of human-shark encounters — will help to protect these ancient creatures, and hopefully stop the alarming decline in their population, and the further imbalance of our ocean ecosystem.

The best thing to do about our fears — especially irrational fear — is to learn the facts.  After all, facts and our knowledge drives our actions!

Do you think this change in reporting human-shark encounters will help?

Related links:

Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences: Science, policy, and the public discourse of shark “attack”: a proposal for reclassifying human–shark interactions

Lolako’s article: Fatalities from shark attacks vs. being struck by lightning:

Lolako’s article: 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez

Oceana.org – Sharks Overview

Pelagic.org – The Pelagic Shark Research Foundation

The IOSEA and Pawikan Conservation Project

I learned about the IOSEA — the Indian Ocean – South-East Asian Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding, from a link to my blog post about the giant Pacific leatherback turtle that washed up off an island in the central Philippines.

Based in Thailand, IOSEA is co-located with the United Nations Environment Programme’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (UNEP/ROAP).

Turtles and other sea creatures obviously do not recognize our geographical borders, so it is great to learn about organizations dedicated to protection and conservation efforts from a global standpoint, and focused on specific regions.

Website introduction: The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia puts in place a framework through which States of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian region, as well as other concerned States, can work together to conserve and replenish depleted marine turtle populations for which they share responsibility. 

...In the context of sustainable development, the conservation and management of marine turtles globally and within the Indian Ocean – South-East Asian region presents a formidable challenge.

Many communities still utilise marine turtles for their meat and eggs, as a source of protein, and their shell for artisanal crafts. At the same time, marine turtles have both intrinsic and ecological values as important components of marine ecosystems.

Threatened or endangered in many parts of the world, they are considered as flagship species on which to base interventions aimed at protecting habitats of importance to a myriad of other marine species.

Major threats to marine turtles include unsustainable exploitation, destruction of nesting and feeding habitats, and incidental mortality in fishing operations...

A very sick turtle which is a recent rescue – Photo by Dave Ryan via Pawikan Conservation Project

From a recent feature story article: A sad reminder about the deadly impact of waste on marine turtles

…Once at the vet, they took a  blood sample and x-rays revealed a blockage in the digestive system. Unfortunately, despite all the care the turtle died and the autopsy revealed a shocking result. Dozens of meters of nylon ropes and pieces of hard plastics were found in the stomach.

…this was not an isolated case. Every year, the care centre receives wild marine turtles injured  because of human activities, all of them having ingested some plastic waste. In the best cases, the individuals reject the waste in their faeces, but in the worst cases, they die from intestinal blockage. Click here to read the article

The site has detailed and country-specific information, e.g. on the status of the leatherback turtles in the Philippines, by Renato Cruz, including leatherback sightings from the Pawikan Conservation Project.

The Pawikan Conservation Project is another organization dedicated to saving sea turtles in the Philippines (“pawikan” is Filipino for marine turtles).

Let us do what we can to support these conservation efforts!  We can all reduce our plastics use, and help to keep our beaches clean so that these items do not end up in our oceans.

Turtle eggs being buried in sand at the Bantay Pawikan Hatchery
Photo by Dave Ryan, via Pawikan Conservation in the Philippines

Giant Pacific leatherback turtle washed up dead off island in central Philippines

Recently, a giant Pacific leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) washed up dead off the central Visayas island of Leyte, in the Philippines.

The endangered leatherback sea turtle is one of earth’s oldest species, and the largest reptile living on our planet.

Photo by Austin Don Perez for Bayan Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula, via post by Iloed.C at www.skyscrapercity.com

It is sad to see, especially as leatherback turtle populations — along with many other types of sea turtles — have dramatically declined over the last 2 decades.  These turtles play an important role in thinning out jellyfish populations, and balancing our ocean’s ecosystem.

Hopefully, it died of old age or natural causes, and not because of accidentally ingesting plastic items and bags floating in our oceans — which it mistakes for jellyfish.

This turtle was estimated to weigh 600 kilos (1,323 lbs).

For more on these amazing creatures, please view my post: Monterey Bay and our connection to endangered leatherback sea turtles.

Last Friday, a 700 lb, leatherback turtle was also found near Monterey, California.  Link to photo of the turtle (and video footage) from local news provider, KTVU.com here. Excerpt:

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found at 3 p.m. that the turtle likely died from natural causes.  Officials transported the heavy sea animal to a marine research facility in Santa Cruz.

These turtles nests in Indonesia, then migrate all the way to Monterey Bay and other parts of the U.S. West Coast.  They take this 6,000 mile journey to feed on abundant jellyfish in our waters.

An article on the website BayNature.org indicated that Pacific leatherback turtles have been spotted in the coastal waters off central California — first in Monterey Bay, then by Santa Cruz, and then in Half Moon Bay.  The leatherbacks arrived earlier this year (compared to previous years), and so far, there have been 17 sightings, compared to a total of 23 sightings for all last year.  The article states that there is a lot of food for them here, and that in July, marine biologists reported the most abundant and dense jellyfish bloom seen in years.

If you reading this from the Philippines and have more information on the leatherback turtle that washed up off the Leyte coast, please comment.  Thank you.  – Lola Jane

For related pollution and conservation topics, please visit Lolako posts: 10 ways to rise above plastics, Trash vortex now the size of Texas, and 12 minutes, on plastic bag bans.

Philippine Eagle Video at ARKive

Shared by artist David Tomb, a video of the magnificent Philippine Eagle, on the ARKive website.  I will add the link to the post Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle (currently LolaKo.com’s most viewed post).

Click here to view the 1 minute video, especially if you are not yet familiar with this beautiful — and simply awesome — eagle.  There are 11 Philippine eagle videos on this site.

I’ve seen many photographs of the Philippine eagle, and I am continually amazed at the expressions I see on these images.

Photo by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com of Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jeffery), captive, Philippine Eagle Center, Davao, Mindanao, Philippines

Related Links:

Lola Jane’s post Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine Eagle

ARKive (www.ARKive.com) - whose mission is promoting the conservation of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery.

“A vast treasury of wildlife images has been steadily accumulating over the past century, yet no one has known its full extent – or indeed its gaps – and no one has had a comprehensive way of gaining access to it. ARKive will put that right, and it will be an invaluable tool for all concerned with the well-being of the natural world.”

Sir David Attenborough -Wildscreen Patron

Interview with David Suzuki: Was Rio+20 a big failure?

Rio+20 is the short name for the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development, which took place on June 20 – 22, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The +20 signifies twenty years since the 1992 Earth summit, also held in Rio de Janeiro.

The UN brought together governments, international institutions and major groups to “agree” on measures to reduce poverty and promote jobs, clean energy, and a more sustainable and fair use of resources.

This is a follow-up to the previous post, and   Severn Cullis-Suzuki’s historic 1992 United Nations speech.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki is the daughter of David Suzuki, a Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist.

David Suzuki is host of the long-running CBC program, “The Nature of Things,” seen in more than 40 countries. He co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990, which focuses on sustainable ecology. In 2009, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award. His latest book is called, “Everything Under the Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet.”

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed David Suzuki near the conclusion of  the Rio+20 conference.  Below is video of the interview, covering the  “Green Economy” and why the planet’s survival requires undoing its economic model.  Introduction:

As the Rio+20 Earth Summit — the largest U.N. conference ever — ends in disappointment, we’re joined by the leading Canadian scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki. As host of the long-running CBC program, “The Nature of Things,” seen in more than 40 countries, Suzuki has helped educate millions about the rich biodiversity of the planet and the threats it faces from human-driven global warming. Suzuki joins us from the summit in Rio de Janeiro to talk about the climate crisis, the student protests in Quebec, his childhood growing up in an internment camp, and his daughter Severn’s historic speech at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 when she was 12 years-old.

“If we don’t see that we are utterly embedded in the natural world and dependent on Mother Nature for our very well-being and survival … then our priorities will continue to be driven by man-made constructs like national borders, economies, corporations, markets,” Suzuki says. “Those are all human created things. They shouldn’t dominate the way we live. It should be the biosphere, and the leaders in that should be indigenous people who still have that sense that the earth is truly our mother, that it gives birth to us. You don’t treat your mother the way we treat the planet or the biosphere today.”

It is clear that a shift in how we think about our relationship with our planet needs to happen now, otherwise, just as meetings like the Rio+20, we are doomed to fail.

As David Suzuki points out, we are part of, and depend on nature.  Without clean air, without clean water, and biodiversity to sustain us….how are we going to survive?

If we continue to think and believe we are separate from — instead of a part of, and responsible for the planet’s health –  then indeed, we are looking at our very own extinction.   Let’s take a different path!

Related Links:

David Suzuki FoundationWe work with government, business and individuals to conserve our environment by providing science-based research, education and policy work, and acting as a catalyst for the change that today’s situation demands.

Lola Jane’s on the Environment tipping point – are we living in an age of irresponsibility?  Post on the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) recently published 5th Global Environment Outlook – a 525 page report analyzing the world’s environmental situation.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki Revisits Historic ’92 Speech, Fights for Next Generation’s Survival

From Democracy Now –  a daily, independent global news hour, with Amy Goodman & Juan González:

In 1992, 12-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki became known as “the girl who silenced the world for six minutes” after she addressed delegates in Rio de Janeiro during the summit’s plenary session. We air Cullis-Suzuki’s historic address and speak to her from the Rio+20 summit, which she comes back to now as a veteran international environmental campaigner and mother of two. “Twenty years later, the world is still talking about a speech, a six-minute speech that a 12-year-old gave to world leaders,” Cullis-Suzuki says. “Why? It is because the world is hungry to hear the truth, and it is nowhere articulated as well as from the mouths of those with everything at stake, which is youth.”

“I’m only a child, yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong—in fact, 30 million species strong. And borders and governments will never change that. I’m only a child, yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.  In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel… click here to view the video transcript.

Environment tipping point…are we living in an age of irresponsibility?

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently published their 5th Global Environment Outlook – a 525 page report analyzing the world’s environmental situation.

And… it is no surprise that the situation does not look good.  Excerpt from the report by Jenny Barchfield (AP) via SFGate, UN report warns environment at tipping point:

…In a 525-page report on the health of the planet, the agency paints a grim picture: The melting of the polar ice caps, desertification in Africa, deforestation of tropical jungles, spiraling use of chemicals and the emptying out of the world’s seas are just some of myriad environmental catastrophes posing a threat to life as we know it.

“As human pressures on the earth … accelerate, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded,” the report says. “Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur, with significant adverse implications for human well-being.”

Such adverse implications include rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and the collapse of fisheries, said the report, which compiles the work of the past three years by a team of 300 researchers.

The bad news doesn’t end there. The report says about 20 percent of vertebrate species are under threat of extinction, coral reefs have declined by 38 percent since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions could double over the next 50 years, and 90 percent of water and fish samples from aquatic environments are contaminated by pesticides.  Click here to read the entire article.

I don’t know about other print newspapers, but ours (The Monterey County Herald) had this news on Page 7, on June 7, 2012.

If our home –  the beautiful planet, Earth — is “being pushed towards their biophysical limits”, then this news deserves more attention.

If indeed, catastrophic changes are looming, then should this news be on the FRONT PAGE?

Our home is on the verge of major disaster, and we put the news on page 7???

We do not want to think about this, so do we just ignore this information…to our own peril?  It’s time to wake up everyone.  This is the collective problem of all inhabitants of our fragile planet!

Is it possible to CHANGE the health of our planet and to stop and reverse these distressing environmental trends?

From UNEP executive director Achim Steiner:  “This is an indictment.  We live in an age of irresponsibility that is also testified and documented in this report.

“In 1992 (when the first of the agency’s five reports was released) we talked about the future that was likely to occur. This report 20 years later speaks to the fact that a number of the things that we talked about in the future tense in 1992 have arrived,” Steiner said. “Once the tipping point occurs, you don’t wake up the next morning and say, `This is terrible, can we change it?’ That is the whole essence of these thresholds. We are condemning people to not having the choice anymore.”

Steiner called for immediate action to prevent continued environmental degradation, with its ever-worsening consequences.

“Change is possible,” he said, adding that the report includes an analysis of a host of environmental preservation projects that have worked. “Given what we know, we can move in another direction.”  Click here to read entire article.

Here is the newspaper article about the UN report, on page 7 of our  Monterey County Herald.

Are you thinking what I am thinking…is this all there is?  Come on, Monterey Herald!

Does the placement of this article speak to how we all feel about the environmental problems we collectively face?  To bury the already tiny mention, in the middle of the newspaper?

If you care at all about the state of the world we leave behind for our children and grandchildren, then we have no choice but to take responsibility for the problems we have caused, and act now…before we reach the tipping point.

Do you think there should be more coverage about this report?  Who is responsible for addressing these  environmental threats?

Monterey Bay and our connection to endangered leatherback sea turtles

The endangered leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is one of earth’s oldest species, and the largest reptile living on our planet.

Exactly how big do these turtles get? The largest known Pacific sea turtle — found stranded on a Welsh beach — weighed 2,019 pounds (916 kg) and was over 8 feet (256cm) long!   That is one big turtle, and bigger than those “smart cars” that many of us have seen on the road.  Smart cars weigh a mere 1600 lbs (731kg).

The Pacific leatherback turtle nests in Indonesia, then migrates all the way to Monterey Bay and other parts of the U.S. West Coast.  They take this 6,000 mile journey to feed on abundant jellyfish in our waters.

Photo: Scott R. Benson, NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center/NOAA website

These turtles are crucial to our ocean ecosystem because the food that they prefer to eat — jellyfish and similar species — actually helps fish in the West Coast thrive.

Why should we care about endangered turtles?

Without these sea turtles to eat and thin out the jellyfish population, too many jelly fish would eat fish eggs, and there would be less fish for other creatures to eat (including fish that human beings eat).

Photo: Scott R. Benson, NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center (from NOAA)

A report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Conservation Union, indicated

  • more than 200,000 loggerhead sea turtles, and 50,000 leatherbacks were accidentally caught in fishing gear worldwide — in one year alone!
  • and, populations of both species have fallen by 80 to 90% over the past decade

We now know that most environmental problems — as well as root causes of recent species extinctions — are due to our actions.

Which means…we have the power to reverse this trend, by learning about endangered species and changing our behavior to conserve these species and their ecosystems.  After all, their ecosystem is OUR ecosystem too.

Photo: Scott R. Benson, NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

There is some good news for these endangered leatherback sea turtles, at least on the topic of increased public awareness.

A legislative committee is now looking at designating the Pacific leatherback turtle as the official, California state marine reptile.

To learn more, visit this link to an article by Jason Hoppin, Santa Cruz Sentinel.  Excerpt:

“Until 5 or 10 years ago people had no idea that this was an important foraging ground for leatherbacks,” said Geoff Shester, Monterey-based Oceana’s California program director. “This is raising the visibility of the species so that we recognize and take ownership of what is an important part of the ocean in California.”

In January, the National Marine Fisheries Service designated 17,000 square miles of coastal waters as critical habitat for the giant turtle, stretching from Mendocino to Santa Barbara counties….

“Making the leatherback the official marine reptile will help engage people at sea and on shore in conserving this incredible sea turtle for all time,” said Teri Shore, program director at Turtle Island Restoration Network, the bill’s primary sponsor.    More…

U.S. West Coast critical Pacific leatherback turtle habitat (source: U.S. NOAA)

Our policies, and what we do to protect ancient creatures like these turtles, will ultimately affect our own resources…especially our future food sources.

As a lola (grandmother), I want my grandchildren to know that our generation realized the problems we created, and that we are doing something about it.

Related Links:

Turtle Island Restoration Network

Turtle Island Restoration Network is a nonprofit environmental organization based in Marin County, California.

We work to protect endangered marine species, save critical ecosystems, improve consumer choices, encourage government action and inspire corporate responsibility, all to protect marine wildlife and the wild oceans we all rely upon.

Leatherback hatchling – photo by S.R. Livingston, Univ. Glasgow

 

The U.S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources.

Information on leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)

 

The Marine Research Foundation – Malaysia

The mission of the Foundation is to further the understanding of marine ecosystems and functions, and conserve the abundance and diversity of marine flora and fauna through research, conservation and education activities.

Key objectives of the Foundation include promoting the advancement of indigenous understanding of marine ecosystems, the economy and social well-being of communities, and the relief of underprivileged communities which depend on the marine environment.

Experts Identify World’s Most Threatened Sea Turtle Populations - News Release, excerpt:

Top sea turtle experts from around the globe have discovered that almost half (45%) of the world’s threatened sea turtle populations are found in the northern Indian Ocean.

The study also determined that the most significant threats across all of the threatened populations of sea turtles are fisheries bycatch, accidental catches of sea turtles by fishermen targeting other species, and the direct harvest of turtles or their eggs for food or turtle shell material for commercial use.  Click here for more…

Article from the IUCN - The Man Who Saves Sea Turles on Dr Nicolas Pilcher – Malaysia

Nick saves sea turtles. In a nutshell that’s what he does. But he has to look far beyond their nesting grounds to make it work.

“Knowing their biology may be one thing, but working with communities, fishermen and industry to make conservation happen is a whole different story,” he says.  To read the article, link here.

Endangered Species Act – Protecting Marine Resources: Fact sheet (PDF) from the NOAA Fisheries Service

NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources: Sea turtle education material for kids and teachers.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.”
Baba Dioum

U.S. Coast: Comparison of shark attacks vs. number of lightning fatalities

Over the last few years, there have been shark attacks off a California state-run beach near where we live.  The most recent attack involved a 27-year-old surfer, in October of last year. Thankfully, the attacks were not fatal.

Of course if you stay out of the water, your shark attack chances are zero.  But for those who love spending time and activities in the ocean, and have a  fear of sharks, this post lists statistics and information that should allay your shark attack fears.

Shark photo from U.S. – NOAA website

Background, from the Ichthyology Department, Florida Museum of Natural History:

Of the over 375 different species of sharks found in the world’s oceans, only about 30 have been reported to ever attack a human. Of these, only about a dozen should be considered particularly dangerous when encountered. The shark species responsible for most unprovoked attacks on humans are the white (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), and bull (Carcharhinus leucas). All sharks, large and small, are however predators and could be capable of inflicting wounds if provoked. They should all be treated with respect when encountered.

The chances of being attacked by a shark are very small compared to other animal attacks, natural disasters, and ocean-side dangers. Many more people drown in the ocean every year than are bitten by sharks. The few attacks that occur every year are an excellent indication that sharks do not feed on humans and that most attacks are simply due to mistaken identity. For more information on the relative risk of shark attacks to humans…click here (shark attack FAQ).

And in case you have not yet heard — at least here in the U.S. — you are more likely to get hit and killed by lightning, than attacked and killed by a shark.

In the last 50 years, there were 1,970 lightning fatalities, compared to 26 shark attack fatalities (out of 974 known shark attacks). I hope that makes you less afraid of being attacked by a shark while playing in the ocean.  After all, that is over 50 years of data!

Details are listed on the table below.

NOTES: California, Florida and Hawaii have the longest saltwater shorelines — and California and Florida are among the most populous states in the U.S.– so it makes sense that there are more attacks (and fatalities) for these states.

Florida’s coastline is 1,350 miles (2,170 km), California is 840 miles (1,350 km), Hawaii is at 750 miles (1210 km), based on large-scale nautical charts.

Coastal United States: 1959-2010

State Period Number of
Lightning
Fatalities
Number of
Shark
Attacks
Number of
Shark Attack
Fatalities
Alabama 1959-2010 109 5 0
California 1959-2010 30 89 7
Connecticut 1959-2010 17 1 0
Delaware 1959-2010 15 3 0
Florida 1959-2010 459 603 9
Georgia 1959-2010 111 10 0
Hawaii 1959-2010 0 97 6
Louisiana 1959-2010 139 1 0
Maine 1959-2010 27 1 0
Maryland 1959-2010 126 0 0
Massachusetts 1959-2010 30 2 0
Mississippi 1959-2010 104 1 0
New Hampshire 1959-2010 8 0 0
New Jersey 1959-2010 68 8 0
New York 1959-2010 139 3 0
North Carolina 1959-2010 193 39 1
Oregon 1959-2010 8 22 1
Rhode Island 1959-2010 5 0 0
South Carolina 1959-2010 98 51 0
Texas 1959-2010 213 32 1
Virginia 1959-2010 66 5 1
Washington 1959-2010 5 1 0

TOTALS 1,970 974 26
Number per Year (average) 37.9 18.7 0.5
 Table Source: Ichthyology Department – Florida Museum of Natural History
Source of lightning data:Lightning Fatalities, Injuries and Damage Reports in the United States from 1959-1994, NOAA. The lightning fatality data was collected by NOAA and originates from the monthly and annual summaries compiled by the National Weather Service and published in monthly issues of Storm Data. The 1995 through 2010 data was tabulated with data from Storm Data.Source of shark attack data: International Shark Attack File, 10 February 2011.

Related Links:

See list of U.S. states by coastlines, here.

Visit the Shark Attack FAQ page, Florida Museum of Natural History

U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Shark Facts: Do sharks eat people?

So did it work?  I know I am less afraid of sharks and shark attacks, now that I have some facts. How about you?

4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez

I am terrified of sharks…and if you were a teenager in the 1970′s and saw the movie “Jaws”, you would be too.

I nearly fell out of the theater chair during a nighttime scene in the movie, when that (already dead) man popped out of the boat.  If you have seen the movie “Jaws”, you know exactly which scene it is.

After that, I did not care much about what happened to sharks.  Less sharks lurking in the waters was a good thing, as far as I was concerned.

But that was the naïve teenager, and younger version of me.  Being older now, I know that sharks play an important role in the ocean’s ecosystem, and that these days, there are alarmingly less sharks swimming in our oceans.

In fact, 50 shark species are listed by the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “threatened”.

There are 3 stages within the “threatened” category:

  • Vulnerable
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List for wild species, and it means that a species’ numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations.

So while the teenager version of me would have looked at this photo with a combination of fear, approval, and morbid relief (like…that is one less shark to worry about!), the current, almost 50-year-old version of me is saddened, especially knowing that shark populations are crashing, and that each year, tens of millions of sharks are caught and killed just for their fins.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, contributed by Sean Van Sommeran

This shark was tagged off Ano Nuevo Island (county of Santa Cruz, California) in the 1990′s and caught by accident last week in the Sea of Cortez, Baja area of Mexico.

It was estimated to weigh 4,000 pounds and was 20 feet long.

White sharks are protected in Mexico, so accidental catches are forgiven, according to an article by Stephen Baxter, Santa Cruz Sentinel.  Click here to read the article.

Related Links:

Oceana.orgSharks Overview

Sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years. While they have survived mass extinction events, sharks have not evolved to withstand overexploitation by humans.

…Of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 50 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, but only the white, whale and basking sharks are protected internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Sharks now represent the greatest percentage of threatened marine species on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

As apex predators, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems, serving as an indicator of ocean health. Despite their fearsome reputation, sharks are slow-growing, late-maturing, long-lived and give birth to few young, making them extremely vulnerable to over exploitation.   More…

Florida Museum of Natural HistoryBiological Profile, White Shark

 Common Name

The white shark, also known as “great white”, and “white pointer”, is believed to have received its name from the appearance of dead specimens lying on deck, ventral side up with stark white underbelly revealed. Other common English language names are man eater, shark, and white death. Common names in other languages include anequim (Portuguese), devorador de hombres (Spanish), grand requin blanc (French), hohojirozame (Japanese), hvithai (Norwegian), jaquentón blanco (Spanish), kalb bahr (Arabic), kelb il – bahar abjad (Maltese), manzo de mar (Italian), menschenhai (German), niuhi (Hawaiian), peshkagen njeringrenes (Albanian), rechin mancator de oameni (Rumanian), requin blanc (French), sbrillias (Greek), squalo bianco (Italian), tiburón blanco (Spanish), valkohai (Finnish), vithaj (Swedish), weißer hai (German), witdoodshaai (Afrikaans), and zarlacz ludojad (Polish).  

Food Habits

The white shark is a macropredator, known to be active during the daytime. Its most important prey items are marine mammals (including, seals, sea lions, elephant seals, dolphins) and fishes (including other sharks and rays)…More

Pelagic.orgThe Pelagic Shark Research Foundation

The word ‘Pelagic’ is an ancient Greek word for the open ocean, high seas, offshore environment, of which most of the Earth’s surface is comprised. The word is presently used by scientists when describing the Earth’s vast regions of open sea and the creatures that inhabit those regions.

Because sharks have been so efficient as predators and foragers they are a phenomenally successful group of animals that have gotten away with such low reproductive rates; however, the introduction of modern fishing methods and industrial fallout have been devastating to shark populations world-wide.

Shark populations are slow to recover from over-harvesting and several U.S. species are considered threatened or endangered with regional extinction.

Virtually all historic commercial shark fisheries in the U.S. and abroad have ended in the population crash of the species of shark being targeted. Historically, commercial shark fisheries have exhibited a boom/bust cycle of over-harvest and decline where the fishery invariably ends with an abrupt and resounding crash.  More…

Seahorses – Magical Fish

More on the magical seahorse on this video from the California Academy of Science, with Healy Hamilton discussing the dramatic decline of seahorses all over the world.

The huge economic boom in China means even more trouble for seahorse populations, as seahorses are highly sought after for use in traditional Chinese medicines.

US Customs at the San Francisco airport recently confiscated a shipment of at least 1,000 seahorses, and the US Fish and Wildlife turned over the dried seahorses to the California Academy of Sciences to help determine their source.

All species of seahorses are internationally protected and no one is supposed to be harvesting seahorses…but the problem of course…..is enforcement.

INTRODUCTION: The destruction of coral reefs, trawling and the use of seahorses in Chinese medicine is leading to their decline. How do we stop this near-mythical sea creature from becoming extinct? “Wired” interviews Academy researcher, Healy Hamilton, to discuss this unique fish and the dangers that threaten them.

Also…here again is the link to Alex Pronove’s blog and his informative post on sea dragons (and seahorses) and the supply chain and market.  Click  here – or click on his photo below.

Photo by: Alex Pronove http://retirednoway.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/seadragon-hunter/

Don’t forget…the Seahorse Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium will be closing this summer. Click here for more information.

The sea otter’s one-eyed peek

Sea Otter Photo from Monterey Bay Aquarium Website

I find sea otters so adorable, and it is worth going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium just to watch their antics up close.

Sea otters are protected as a threatened species under the 1972 Endangered Species Act, and small populations can be found along the coasts of Russia, Alaska and Central California.

By the 1900′s, the Southern sea otter was thought to be extinct due to being intensely hunted for their warm, luxurious pelt.  But in 1915, biologists discovered that a group of about 50 otters had survived in a remote Big Sur cove.  In order to protect these last survivors, the biologists kept them a secret — up until 1938.  These biologist were great secret-keepers!

That secret — and protection under the Endangered Species Act — have helped to increase the sea otter population on the California coast to around 2,500.   This is still a small number and other environmental risks like a major oil spill remains a serious threat to the population.

Jeff took these pictures of a napping sea otter, on the terrace,right outside the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  They anchor themselves with kelp so they do not drift away while resting.

Napping sea otter anchored in kelp, outside the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Suddenly, this otter’s (one) eye popped open…

Are you looking at ME?

So okay, upon closer look, it is possible that both eyes were open…it’s just from the angle of the photograph, it looked like the otter was giving us a one-eyed peek.

Why are sea otters important?  According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium website,

Sea otters are an iconic species, representing the beauty and diversity of life in Monterey Bay. They’re also a keystone species, helping keep ocean ecosystems in balance. They eat sea urchins and other invertebrates that graze on giant kelp. Without sea otters, these grazing animals can destroy kelp forests and the animals that live there.

Sea otters are also good indicators of ocean health. Since they are the top predator of invertebrates along the Central California coast, changes in their health can make scientists aware of variations in the ocean environment itself.

It is fascinating that the California sea otters we see today are all descended from that tiny Big Sur colony!

And so, though they do still struggle, this fact gives me hope that the endangered Philippine Eagle (see my post earlier this month) may rebound if we are able to keep intact, their remaining forest home.

Photo from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Saving Sea Otters

For cool sea otter facts — like the fact that they have the densest fur in the world, of up to a million hairs PER SQUARE INCH (compared to 100,000 hairs on our entire head  — or less for some of us)click here or visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program web page.

Males who get pregnant and give birth? Learn more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

In case you live in the area and have not been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in a while, now is a great time to visit.  With much less crowds, you can relax, take in the beauty of the exhibits, get inspired and take pictures of your favorite creatures with ease.

Also, it is a good opportunity to check out the fascinating exhibit, The Secret Lives of Seahorses, which will be closing in August this year.

I posted an article about seahorses and our visit to the aquarium with our grandsons last year (click here to view).

And yes, there really are  males in the animal kingdom who become pregnant and give birth.  It’s the extraordinary seahorse!

From the Monterey Bay Aquarium on the seahorse exhibit:

Seahorses, sea dragons, pipehorses and pipefishes come in many shapes and sizes, but beneath the surface they’re all fish, with fused jaws and bony plates in place of the scales normally associated with fish.

Perhaps what most distinguishes seahorses from the rest of the animal kingdom is their unique life history—the males become pregnant and give birth. Seahorse fathers shelter their young in protective pouches, while sea dragon and pipefish fathers carry their young on spongy patches on the undersides of their tails.

And on a related topic, I recently learned about blogger Alex Pronove— who returned to the Philippines and now lives in the Palawan area, and writes about “discovering my new island home”.  Check out his informative post on sea dragons (and seahorses) and the supply chain and market here – or click on his photo below.

Photo: Alex Pronove http://retirednoway.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/seadragon-hunter/